A narrative on our coach in his young career, projected onto the entire football program, steadily hammered home over more than a dozen years, very recently reinforced with vigor and verve, extrapolated to a 41 year drought, even though 128 would pay handsomely to take our place. …What, me worry?
Since October, the 2021-22 Georgia Bulldog football team has (admirably, gloriously, thankfully) made writing this weekly feature pretty dang tough. If you seemingly dominate every fact of the game every stinkin’ week, it doesn’t easily provide points of concern. Then Alabama happened. Still and yet, each one of you has likely heard more breakdowns, more analysis, and more noise than anyone has a right to about this game. But almost every discussion eventually aborts the numbers and comes down to “Alabama is in Georgia’s head – at this point it’s mental.” I don’t know if I agree completely, but I can tell you I’ve gone mental since September 4th knowing this very game would likely happen. So enjoy my gutshots and stream of consciousness. It isn’t short.
Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face our nemesis, the bane of our very existence, again, Monday night:
1) Rushing Defense – which might be a concern for UGA DC Dan Lanning after watching the Tide run at will versus Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl last week. And to add context, a recurring theme since the end of the regular season is that the Alabama and Georgia football teams are very similar – in build, in recruiting, record, and even in some stats. So let’s compare.
Alabama has allowed 1,150 yards rushing through 14 games. Georgia has allowed 1,153. Only 4 times did a team surpass 100 yards on the ground versus the Red Elephants, one of which is the SEC Championship Game. Georgia: also only 4 games surrendering rushes over 100 yards, and the 4th was Bama at Mercedes Benz. And while Alabama did throttle the productive #39 ranked rushing offense of Cincinnati, let’s admit that the Bearcats didn’t exactly face the best defenses week in and week out. Georgia on the other hand, faced the 16th best rushing offense in the Wolverines and stifled them to less than half their average output. Alabama may have a stout defense, but even playing from behind for most of the game, Georgia still ground out over 3.5 yards an attempt. If the Dawgs aren’t in a huge hole, I see no problem for Todd Monken to keep our approach balanced and success running the football.
2) Make Bama commit. Georgia has two powerful weapons in game planning for the Tide defense: plenty of film, and great options for offensive motion. With a season’s worth of games on tape, and our own experience playing the Alabama D, Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken should be able to pick up some tendencies and teach the offensive line, the receivers, and the quarterback to look for certain alignments and schemes. It would’ve been nice if Cincinnati had forced Nick Saban to use a little bit more of his playbook, but I think there won’t be many surprises in Indianapolis.
Then, using James Cook, and Brock Bowers, in motion should give even more intel to as to what defense they’re in. They won’t ignore either of these players, they might even spy on them a little. Both have proven to be extremely effective weapons. And moreso than a wide receiver; motioning out of the backfield or from the very end of the line of scrimmage can cause a defensive shift in the linebackers or safety. It can reveal pressure, and from which side, as well as who might drop into coverage. By all accounts, Stetson Bennett is just the type of film rat to eat this stuff up. And that lets the Mailman be very well prepared for his appointed rounds.
3) “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer, Superstition ain’t the way.” Gosh I sure hope so. Because starting September 3rd, yours truly has not gone clean shaven. After the Clemson win, I decided not to shave. The wins started rolling, and defeating (then ranked) top 10 teams mid-season only reinforced that my decision was beneficial. Soundly beating the big 4 rivals (Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia Tech) on our way to an undefeated season told me something special was going on. And Crash taught me that you don’t mess with a streak, no matter how bad it looks and no matter how much your wife rolls her eyes and how your large adult son is not impressed.
Then Georgia faced Alabama in the 2021 SEC Championship game. But bolstered by whiskers, I was waaaayyyy more optimistic of Georgia’s chances to slay the dragon. Alas, that 2nd quarter has given me nervous tics. Yet when Georgia was granted entry to the College Football Playoffs, I stayed the course. Letting it grow a little longer in the long runup to the Orange Bowl, our Beloved Bulldogs emerged victorious, and I emerged more unkempt. Until Saturday, January 1, 2022. Because I shaved.
I kept the beard when Georgia was winning. I kept the beard after the SECCG because Georgia could still win a national championship. I shaved the beard because it was present when we played Alabama the last time and that sure as hell didn’t work. So I’m mixing up the juju. I expect half of you will curse me, the other half wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. I simply cannot even imagine any single action amongst all of humankind that will be as effective on behalf of the Classic City Canines.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about trying to beat our Daddy once again:
1) They know something I don’t. The official DraftKings line is Georgia -3 . This has actually moved half a point since New Years from Georgia -2.5. And the total points has dropped the hook down to 52 even. These folks know way more about college football scoring than I do, but what is it that they know to favor Georgia so? And it has me worried.
On paper, the UGA roster is pretty much on par when considering player rankings out of high school. And looking at the recent NFL talent and soon-to-be NFL draft picks on the field, player development is also fairly equal. There are some significant differences in a few statistical categories but overall the teams are evenly matched and clearly the best in the nation. So I get that the line is close. But how can Georgia be favored? Have they not seen the last 7 games between the two teams? Did they not watch Alabama overcome 4 double digit deficits in a row? Is it not clear that Tyler Simmons was onsides?
2) “Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.” – George Harrison.
I hope Head Coach Kirby Smart is paying attention to these words. Because I am not super comfortable with his clock management. Since it’s clearly established that both teams have elite talent and are able to outperform most mortals, this game could come down to the small things. Like what you do with 2 minutes. Or how you spend the last 15 seconds before the half. The utilization of timeouts – when to use them and when to take them into the locker room with you.
That little episode before halftime of the Orange Bowl has been reviewed and dissected. All I know is that there was time to run some plays, and possibly have a scoring opportunity. And no one seemed happy with how it went down. Every tick of that game clock Monday night must be used to a purpose, with all possible outcomes accounted for.
3) Change. Georgia played this Alabama team just a month ago in pretty much the same shape (Mechie is out, but RB Robinson is now healthy). Especially on the defensive side, it simply did not work. We need to change things up. I’m not talking about running some south Arkansas high school offense or anything like that. We need a change in form, a change in character. We need to Convert.
As in convert 3rd downs into 1st downs. Convert turnovers into actual points on the scoreboard. Convert pulling guards into pancaked linebackers. Convert that 4 yard slant into a 30 yard gain. Convert blitzes into sacks.
Convert any trepidation into confidence in your execution.
Convert those hardass practices into playing free and fast.
Convert Karma into referee calls in our favor.
Convert the national narrative about Georgia football and Kirby Smart into something that instills fear.
And Convert those 5 stars, those 4 stars, those 3 stars, those no-stars, those walk-ons into national champion Georgia Bulldogs.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Crimson Tide of Alabama. And as always…